Autopsychotherapy in Dąbrowski's Work

One of the most common questions people have about the theory is, “What is autopsychotherapy, and how do I do it?”

This led us first to record a podcast episode on autopsychotherapy, and now we're also sharing excerpts on autopsychotherapy from Dąbrowski's English works. 

In January 2024, we updated this page and added excerpts from an unpublished manuscript called Developmental Psychotherapy. Keep an eye out for more updates from other unpublished manuscripts or translated work. 

From Positive Disintegration (1964)

The capacity for syntony with other individuals (in the sense of emotional closeness, understanding, and cooperation even with the possibility of organized and conscious conflicts with them) also indicates a positive process. In cases of psychoneurosis and sometimes psychosis, in addition to the factors listed above, positive disintegration can be recognized by the individual's capacity for autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1964)

From the discussion above, we see clearly that the third factor plays a vital role in the development of psychic inner environment. Its action is very closely connected with multi-level disintegration, especially with the development of an “object-subject” process within the self. It participates in the establishment of a disposing and directing center at a higher level and in the development and organization of hierarchy of psychic structure and of the personality ideal. This structure and these dynamisms are necessary to self-education and autopsychotherapy in internal conflicts and to positive development in psychoneurosis. (Dabrowski, 1964)

An individual capable of developing may be characterized by various forms of increased excitability or nervousness, and even by psychoneurosis. Mental tension, internal and external conflicts—indeed the whole process of disintegration—cause a sense of ill health. Nevertheless, such an individual possesses a sense of his own creativity, an awareness of the transformation of his character, and a knowledge of his personality ideal. These contributes to his ability to effect autopsychotherapy. Realization of the complexities of both the internal and the external environment and of one's own hierarchy of values enables one to reach a higher level of integration through autopsychotherapy, not merely to return to the previous state (restitutio in integrun). An individual possessing these qualities usually has a great deal of knowledge about himself, his conflicts, and their role in compensation and sublimation. His clear personality ideal allows him to determine the direction of the secondary integration. (Dabrowski, 1964)

It is not internal conflict, nervousness, or even neurosis which signifies mental disease. These symptoms, side by side with the capacity for autopsychotherapy and its participation in reaching a higher developmental level, indicate that the individual is mentally healthy. Psychic symptoms within one's structure and dynamic processes do not mean mental illness. True disturbance of mental health exists only in cases of negative disintegration. (Dabrowski, 1964)

As has been made plain, syndromes of nervousness or psychoneurosis (and sometimes psychosis) may indicate not mental illness but rather developmental possibilities and unfolding mental health. In “pathological” cases of this kind the individual can determine his own fate and transformation. Such autopsychotherapy is nothing but self-education under especially difficult conditions. (Dabrowski, 1964)

From Personality-Shaping through Positive Disintegration (1967)

Even in certain psychotic processes we may observe processes of positive disintegration, not only on the basis of the positive result of the final resolution of the psychosis, in the form of the shaping of a richer personality, revealing intellectual, moral, and social values higher than those before the disease, but also on the basis of an analysis of the clinical “picture,” which, even at the stage of symptoms of dissolution, is characterized by such peculiarities as periodic tendencies to autopsychotherapy, manifestations of creativity, and the nuclei of secondary integration. (Dabrowski, 1967)

In cases of nervousness, neuroses, and psychoneuroses, and sometimes also psychoses, positive disintegration would be reflected in the capacity for autopsychotherapy (Dabrowski, 1967).

The beginning of self-education coincides in general with the beginning of the process of positive disintegration, and this is also the time at which the third factor appears. At this time the activities of developmental autodetermination begin to oust the thus far existing heterodetermination, and the adaptational difficulties and developmental disturbances are removed by means of autopsychotherapy. From this moment the moral evaluation and attitude of a given individual toward the environment begins anew, as it were, and the past is in a sense isolated from the present and the future. This process is represented by the following opinion, expressed by Brzozowski in The Legend of Young Poland: “Man is not a continuation of evolution but a rupture in its thread; when he [man] comes to being, all that preceded him becomes his enemy.” (Dabrowski, 1967)

The adviser must also be well prepared, in the areas of psychology, psychopathology, and pedagogy, and must know how to use the most modern methods of these branches of science. One should not, of course, expect the adviser to have completed graduate studies in all these disciplines. The adviser should, however, have completed graduate study in one of these disciplines and he should possess a good theoretical and practical knowledge of the realms bordering his discipline. He should have, primarily, a deep knowledge of developmental psychology, psychopathology, individual education, self-education, psychotherapy, and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1967)

An adviser with high inner qualifications is necessary in those cases where we are concerned with essential and deep changes in the structure of an individual moving along the road to personality, with intensified internal conflicts, or with difficulties in overcoming them. In a family, in a school, in an educational institution, problems arise that require counsel from various special advisers, and require not only the mastery of knowledge from the borders of psychology, education, teaching, self-education, autopsychotherapy, and vocational guidance, but also greater knowledge and experience in order to help in solving certain special, individual problems in the development of personality. There also comes into play, therefore, one of the most fundamental requisites for mental health, the “team” requisite, or, more precisely, the group work of many specialists, every one of whom, besides his own specialty, the knowledge of which he has in hand as a starting point, would have a knowledge of, and achievements in, the development of personality (the child, young people, adults, the level and scope of the development of personality). This would be a personality development team adviser. (Dabrowski, 1967)

Through diagnosis of the childish forms of attitudes to one's own internal environment, through help in the proper shaping of the main dynamisms of this environment, through an awakening of the initial tendencies towards autopsychotherapy, one introduces a certain order into the perturbed internal environment characteristic of the process of positive disintegration and particularly of its elementary forms, and one excites a certain directional disposition. (Dabrowski, 1967)

The method of weakening this tenseness, not by opposing the resistances and obstinacies but rather by discharging them by way of natural rechanneling and persuasion, as well as by agreements with the child, permitted the child to preserve and increase her ambition, her independence, and introduced elements of psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy into her inner life, thus raising the process of positive disintegration to a higher level. (Dabrowski, 1967)

In short, in personality-shaping, psychotherapy, and autopsychotherapy are closely connected with the methods of education and self-education in the course of the development of personality. The difference between these two methods of acting upon someone in special developmental periods and in special difficulties resides in the fact that psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy are applied to special difficulties of everyday life and to patients manifesting psychoneuroses. (Dabrowski, 1967)

This transition from positive “pathological” elements to negative ones, this degeneration, is also prevented by encircling them with healthy elements (elements of a more conscious and higher level of development), by grafting weak but positive “pathological” elements from a lower level onto stronger elements localized at higher levels, and which are more conscious, better controlled, manifesting greater potential for development. Attempts are continually made to increase the patient's self-consciousness, to thus lead him to an understanding of himself as normal even more, as having the possibility of creative and accelerated development and to promote his capabilities for autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1967)

What basic dynamism are we able to single out, which arose or were developed during the period of positive disintegration that is, during the formation of Beers' personality and how did they influence the nuclei of the thus far formed qualities? Some of them stand out clearly. Primarily Beers developed through an active and well- prepared fight against the abuses of the hospital attendants in their relations with patients, through his feeling of justice and his sensitivity to the injustice done to others. Furthermore, he deepened his ability for self-observation through controlled experiments dealing with his capabilities for inquiry and observation. A very important dynamism in the development of his personality was the advent and growth in him of the capability for autopsychotherapy. Because of the existence and activity of these factors he did not passively succumb to the various phases of his illness but took a critical and prepared part in their course. It is most probable that these dynamisms were active factors in the advent and development of his new creative capabilities. A very important dynamism in the shaping of his individual and social personality (realization of the ideal) was Beers' submission to hard and brutal experiences in order to obtain deeper knowledge of the bad treatment of patients.

The main traits of Beers' shaped personality were the following qualities and dynamisms: a highly developed feeling of justice, a sense of social responsibility, a feeling of social mission (dynamic social ideal), a psychological insight in relation to himself and others, a considerable ability to control himself (for instance, by narrowing the scope of his activity), an ability for self-education and for autopsychotherapy, and creative capabilities (literary and painting). These dynamisms arose on the basis of nuclei revealed in childhood and youth which were enhanced many times and shaped in the period of the intensification of the positive disintegration process. With respect to enhancement, shaping, and reshaping there emerged as the most powerful such dynamisms as his highly conscious disposing and directing center, his personality ideal, and his insight into himself. Beers' new qualities included literary and painting capabilities. Among the relatively weaker dynamisms, those important for personality development were Beers' dissatisfaction with himself, his feeling of inferiority in relation to himself, and his feeling of guilt. (Dabrowski, 1967)

We see one aspect of this process in psychic overexcitability, in disequilibrium, in suffering, depression, anxiety states, obsessions, symptoms of “emotional immaturity,” and so on. The second aspect is indissolubly connected, teleologically as well as in a cause-effect relationship, with the first. This second aspect includes all developmental elements, and especially the psychic inner milieu with its main dynamisms. Thus, the shaping of personality is a manifestation of the conscious incorporation of that which is conflicting, that which is “pathological,” into the process of development. For this reason the principle of not rejecting “pathological” elements, but rather of grafting them onto normal and accelerated development, is the main tenet of the theory of positive disintegration. Thus, self-education and autopsychotherapy are emphasized in the shaping of personality. For the same reason, in psychotherapy, the accent is put on development and mental health rather than on rehabilitation and removal of “pathological” symptoms. In this way treatment is effected through development rather than development through “treatment.” This is the manner in which the individual creatively elaborates so-called “pathological” dynamisms, in intimate connection to positive development. Thus each man's development of personality is a personal and social drama. (Dabrowski, 1967)

The development of personality with gifted children and young people usually passes through the process of positive disintegration, which is connected with the already mentioned complexity of neurosis, and on the other hand it leads to self-control, self- education, and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1967)

From Mental Growth through Positive Disintegration (1970)

Organized multilevel disintegration which is the next stage, exhibits more tranquility, systematization and conscious transformation of oneself. The developmental dynamisms which distinctly appear at this stage are: “subject-object” in oneself; the third factor, self-awareness and self-control, identification and empathy, education of oneself and autopsychotherapy. The ideal of personality takes more distinct contours and becomes closer to the individuals. There is a pronounced growth of empathy. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Inner psychic milieu is a dynamic mental structure which appears significantly only at advanced stages of mental development, basically at the time of multilevel disintegration. At the level of primitive integration, strictly speaking, there is no inner psychic milieu. It arises later to the degree as developmental dynamisms are formed, particularly those of an autonomous nature such as the third factor, inner psychic transformation, authentism, personality ideal, education of oneself and autopsychotherapy, the ability for meditation and contemplation. (Dabrowski, 1970)

This development may be modulated through increased awareness and self-awareness, through a better understanding of his own mental condition, through autopsychotherapy and periodic contacts with a psychologist or psychiatrist of high psychic maturity and capacity for an understanding of such individuals and of developmental processes. (Dabrowski, 1970)

In the process of multidimensional disintegration, the individual goes beyond his biopsychological developmental cycle, his animalistic nature, his biological determination and slowly achieves psychological and moral self-determination, The human individual, under these conditions ceases to direct himself exclusively by his innate dynamisms and by environmental influences, but develops autonomous dynamisms such as “subject-object” in oneself, the third factor, or personality ideal. He slowly transforms his own psychological type, unfolding consciously his potentials for a mixed type through self-development and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1970)

In conclusion we can say that the development of mental health, means development through positive disintegration, through positive maladjustment through transcending the biological cycle, through transcending the psychological type, in the direction of personality ideal. This means that mental health is directly related to the development of the inner psychic milieu, to the development of autonomous and authentic factors through education of oneself and autopsychotherapy, through nervousness, neurosis and psychoneurosis, and in some special cases, through mental states very near to psychic catastrophe, i.e. through some psychotic states. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. The action of the third factor leads to certain characteristic changes. The individual becomes less affected by influences from lower levels, he begins to feel the need to direct his own development: but more, he becomes conscious of being able to direct his own progress towards an integrated personality. Thus the third factor generates the dynamism of education of-oneself. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Autopsychotherapy is the process of education-of-oneself under conditions of increased stress, as in developmental crises, in critical moments of life, in neuroses and psychoneuroses (Dabrowski, 1970).

Autopsychotherapy is an indispensable component of the dynamism education-of-oneself. This is so because before the individual can reach secondary integration he experiences various inner disturbances and conflicts. These conflicts occur not only in relation to the external environment but also in the inner milieu. Although we recognize that these conflicts have a positive side to them insofar as they result in the development of personality, still the individual has to cope with them. The ability to cope with such conflicts constitutes the dynamism of autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1970)

As man's development comes closer to secondary integration, conflicts that would earlier produce neurotic and psychoneurotic symptoms are dealt with by the dynamism of autopsychotherapy in such a way that these very conflicts become the creative medium of self-perfection (Dabrowski, 1970).

The dynamisms of education-of-oneself and of autopsychotherapy operate on the basis of a dualism of subject (that which educates) and object (that which is educated in oneself), a dualism of negation and affirmation with respect to oneself and the environment, a dualism (discrimination) of split levels: higher, i.e., those defined by the personality ideal, and lower, i.e., those determined by primitive structures and functions. Here one might get the feeling for the philosophical dualism of higher and lower, of good and bad, of spirit and matter. (Dabrowski, 1970)

The initiation and development of these factors is necessary for a successful process of education-of-oneself and of autopsychotherapy. Both these processes are guided by the highest dynamisms of personality, i.e. by the disposing and directing center on a high level and by the personality ideal. In this manner, through the multilevelness of stimulation and inhibition, through inner psychic transformation, through autonomy and authentism, through education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy, the inner psychic milieu of an individual is transformed into personality. (Dabrowski, 1970)

At the level of the second group of dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu, that is dynamisms which organize this milieu, we have the beginnings of a conscious organization of one's depression. Depression on a higher level activates those dynamisms which participate in the liquidation of the depression on lower levels. The third factor begins to operate, and so does the dynamism “subject-object” in oneself. There is a strong increase in awareness and self-control. With maladjustment to the actual state of affairs will be associated the need for adjustment to that which ought to be. The activity of the dynamism of inner psychic transformation increases. Autopsychotherapy becomes possible. (Dabrowski, 1970)

At the level of the third group of dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu, i.e. at the borderline between advanced multilevel disintegration and secondary integration, we find a deeper understanding of the creative role of depression and of other psychoneurotic states in man's own development. The individual now shows a need to assume the responsibility for his own depression and tends to subordinate it to the dynamisms of autopsychotherapy and education-of-oneself, to the disposing and directing center, and to the personality ideal. Depression, as a pathological complex, gradually disappears, leaving the capacity for understanding and identification with similar condition in others. The same thing applies to anxiety states, though the character of transformation will vary with the type of anxiety. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Let us consider the diagnostic and prognostic value of some of the more important elements of the inner psychic milieu. The detection of the presence of certain fundamental dynamisms of the inner milieu is decisive for diagnosis and prognosis of psychoneuroses as well as for the choice of methods to treat them. The presence of higher level dynamisms, such as the third factor, autopsychotherapy and education of-oneself, inner psychic transformation, disposing and directing center on a high level, manifests the positive character of a given psychoneurosis, giving thus a good prognosis and clearly indicating the procedure for the so-called “cure.” (Dabrowski, 1970)

On the other hand, the accumulation of various phobias, feelings of inferiority, passive feelings of guilt, indicates lack of a distinct operation of the third factor, lack of the dynamisms of education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy, lack of stronger creative dynamisms and inner psychic transformation. It indicates a dominance of the first group of dynamisms of multilevel disintegration and some residual operation of dynamisms of unilevel disintegration (like ambivalences and ambitendencies). Here the prognosis is not always certain. One may well suggest heteropsychotherapy with great care and watchfulness over the patient's behavior. In such case pharmacological treatment of the patient is frequently of some help to his human environment, especially his family. (Dabrowski, 1970)

Organized multilevel disintegration is associated with such disturbances as depressive psychoneurosis, psychasthenia, and infantile neurosis, obsessive, compulsive and anxiety neuroses. It must be pointed out that these neuroses appear in their milder forms, since they are already subject to the dynamism of autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1970)

The dynamism of autopsychotherapy controls and transforms mental disturbances. The disturbances are then not as debilitating as analogous symptoms at lower stages of development since their more pernicious effects are counteracted at this level by higher protective and developmental dynamisms. On the level of secondary integration there are no mental disturbances or illnesses. (Dabrowski, 1970)

DEVELOPMENTAL INSTINCT, instinct of a most general and basic nature, a “mother instinct” in relation to all other instincts; the source (in nucleus) of all developmental forces of an individual. If finds its expression particularly in such dynamisms as dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority towards oneself, the third factor, inner psychic transformation, disposing and directing center at a higher level, autonomy and authentism, personality ideal. It acts differently at different stages of development, pushing the individual towards higher and higher developmental levels. It operates with variable intensity in most human individuals; among those with the ability for accelerated development it takes the form of education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. Some individuals, e.g. oligophrenics, imbeciles, idiots, do not have the developmental instinct. (Dabrowski, 1970)

The third factor has a fundamental role in education-of-oneself, and in autopsychotherapy. Its presence and operation is essential in the development toward autonomy and authenticity. It arises and grows as a resultant of both positive hereditary endowment (especially the ability for inner psychic transformation) and positive environmental influences. (Dabrowski, 1970)

From Psychoneurosis is Not an Illness (1972)

Besides the constitutional endowment expressed as nuclei of the developmental potential and the influence of the social milieu there is a third category of forces that is very important in the shaping of psychoneurotic processes. These are the autonomous factors which develop gradually throughout the individual's life experiences. Becoming more and more conscious they often come to play the most important role in the evolution of psychoneurosis as a growth towards autonomy and self-determination. These autonomous factors find their expression in education of oneself, in autopsychotherapy, and in richer use of the individual's creative abilities. (Dabrowski, 1972)

A majority of the sick do not consult the physician. They are those who are aware enough of the whole complication, of their disturbances; they realize that the cure would necessitate several months, perhaps years of great effort, and require exceptional knowledge combining neurology, psychiatry and psychology together with a high moral authority on the part of the therapist; all those values can rarely be provided by the ordinary physician. Those patients treat themselves, through autopsychotherapy, and rarely use advice and pharmacological prescriptions for less essential, “marginal” components of their suffering. a great majority of nervous children and adolescents–those who developed a neuropathic component–have: a high level of ability. This is another complicating element which provides a basis for the development of “educated awareness” often this is the basis for a feeling of superiority and resentment towards physicians who possess inadequate comprehension or a careless attitude with regard to their patients' suffering. (Dabrowski, 1972)

A second group of psychoneurotics is composed of those who do come for therapy. They are people whose capacity for adjustment to life has been considerably diminished and whose independence with respect to the environment and the capacity for autopsychotherapy are much limited. Hence a great majority of cases present a picture much different from that described previously. Among those treated as ill there appears much helplessness, passivity, low level of performance at work, and low level of consciousness plus some negative, infantile forms of behavior. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Treatment: It is difficult to suggest here a specific program of treatment. Rather, a program of self-development and autopsychotherapy is advisable. It is important to have the patient realize the whole importance of his own development, to help him in a more universal personality growth, and in the control of his overly intense emotional reactions. He needs to develop a greater understanding and capacity for a more balanced view of the constellations of lower psychosocial level with some compassion for those who are morally endowed but to a limited degree. (Dabrowski, 1972)

In a case like this I never recommend a “psychiatric treatment.” Should this man take up a professional psychiatric or clinical career, he would have exceptionally good chances of healing others, because of his great creative potential, empathy, psychical responsibility, insight and flexibility. One could only venture to give him some advice, on the basis of a global diagnosis of his rich personality, as being well on its way to advanced development. This development may be modulated through increased awareness and self-awareness, through a better understanding of his own mental condition, through autopsychotherapy and periodic contacts with a psychologist or psychiatrist of high psychic maturity and capacity for an understanding of such individuals and their developmental processes. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The difference between neurasthenia and psychasthenia, or as we would rather say, between the lower and higher levels of psychasthenia, is also evident in the need for different therapeutic methods. Since in psychasthenia the psychic processes are dominant, therefore, the most effective method is autopsychotherapy and therapy promoting individual growth through educative methods; in neurasthenia results may often be obtained more readily with drugs such as antidepressants, tranquillizers and others which regulate the disharmony between the autonomic systems. Depending on the level of development of emotional functions in cases on the borderline of neurasthenia and psychasthenia one applies mainly either appropriate pharmacological drugs or methods leading to autopsychotherapy (such as educative or even “philosophical” therapies). (Dabrowski, 1972)

These processes develop the dynamisms of autonomy, authentism, empathy and responsibility. They enhance the reality function on a higher level, the hierarchy of values and the personality ideal; they precipitate the growth of the disposing and directing center at a high level and the growth of inner psychic transformation. They activate education-of-oneself, autopsychotherapy and develop faculties of meditation and even ecstasy. (Dabrowski, 1972)

By providing appropriate assistance for the development of the personalities of psychoneurotics, their depressive syndromes can be used as a phase of psychic transformation, development of self-control, of objectivity, etc., which will shape and rectify subsequent states of excitation (such as greater enthusiasm for friends, great ideas, service to others). By means of conscious autopsychotherapy in psychasthenia, the reality function at a higher level can play a creative, and thus, therapeutic role in the development of the personality of psychasthenics. The obsessive element in psychasthenia, or in true psychoneurotic obsession can be directed towards the elaboration of a stable attitude of positive determination and constancy of feelings, thereby channelling it through developmental dynamisms. When obsessions are channeled through understanding and experiencing their positive aspect then they gain more of positive dynamics in development over strong fixations which block development. (Dabrowski, 1972)

Psychasthenia tends to be associated with more serious neurotic states of the following types: obsessions, neurasthenia, and anxiety neurosis. In the cases of psychoneurotic anxiety at a lower level, where it is usually combined with somatization, we observe a need to find support in someone, to be in contact with others, which appears as “sociability.” When psychoneurotic anxiety attains a higher level as a function of the developing inner psychic milieu then there is also a greater tendency to solve psychoneurotic problems authentically by means of autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The development of personality among gifted children and young people usually passes through the process of positive disintegration (strictly related to the complexity of the psychoneurosis), and it leads to self-control, education-of-oneself, and autopsychotherapy, in other words, to a conscious inner psychic transformation. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The conflict between the “ego” and the “id” results, according to Freud (1943) in neurosis. From the point of view of personality development, however, this is not necessarily to be avoided. A psychoneurosis often appears necessary in development and is gradually overcome with the progress of autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1972)

My own observations have led me to note that symptoms of nervousness and the like, characteristic of the psychoneurotic, are also to be found in the so-called psychically normal person (i.e. those with a capacity for development), or in those who distinctly manifest aspiration towards mental health. To put it another way, the very same symptoms may be designated as either neurotic or healthy. The decision as to which categorization properly applies will depend upon the kind of psychological tension or disintegration, on the effects of the symptoms, and perhaps on some relatively obvious features of the symptoms such as creativity and tendencies towards autopsychotherapy. Just the same is true insofar as adjustment and maladjustment are concerned. It is necessary to differentiate between adjustment and maladjustment in terms of the conditions which have given rise to a particular psychic state. Perhaps in the developmental perspective my own views have something in common with Maslow's, particularly as regards the fact that some psychoneurotic developments are subject to “negative regression” while the majority follows positive evolution through an “individual drama of personality growth.” Both Maslow and I underline that the course of development depends on the strength and character of the developmental potential, on the strength and character of environmental influence, and on the strength and range of activity of the third factor which stands for the autonomous dynamisms of self-determination. (Dabrowski, 1972)

In comment upon this theory, four points may be raised. The system has particular strength in recognizing the place of autonomous and moral factors, the hierarchy of values, responsibility and the “open group” as contributing to the processes of autopsychotherapy. Second, Mowrer offers a useful insight into the dynamics of positive development by stressing the place of guilt feelings in the genesis of psychoneurosis and by stressing the need for reparation (taking on responsibility) in therapy. Third, I cannot wholly accept Mowrer's view of the dynamics of guilt feelings, i.e. whenever there is the feeling of guilt there must have been a transgression, on the grounds that many eminent people who have advanced in self-perfection, still present strong guilt feelings. A more appropriate interpretation of such feelings as far as I have derived from most of my cases, might be to see them as an expression of the distance between a person's ideal and his own view of his inner reality. Understood in these terms, guilt feelings may be seen to play a developmental role as the perception of a distance from one's personality ideal, and perhaps, as the perception of transgression against this personality ideal, which, after all, we postulate to be the highest dynamism in the development of personality. Lastly, it may be suggested that group therapy, and confession in the presence of a group, are not always indicated as unique and even necessary components of treatment. There are many who, because of their particular psychological type, or even because of their own life-history, cannot become participants in group therapy and cannot engage in unrestricted exteriorization among people whom they barely know. (Dabrowski, 1972)

The ten-year-old girl, B.L. (Case 20) represents a combination of all five forms of psychic overexcitability. The strongest are emotional and imaginational components. This multiple mixed character of her overexcitability represents strong developmental potential, nevertheless, it is also a cause of excessive psychic tension. Her developmental stage is a “balance” of unilevel and multilevel disintegration. Her chief “pathological” symptoms were excessive excitability and obsessiveness, combined with easily evoked scruples and feelings of guilt, and excessive tensions. By her “positive regression” to behavior of earlier childhood she showed tendency to autopsychotherapy (relaxation, diminution of difficulties). (Dabrowski, 1972)

Prognosis is good, assuming that an individual program of education and psychotherapy can be put into effect, with assistance for the growth of her creative forces and autopsychotherapy. Autopsychotherapy is possible even at such a young age. One introduces to some degree the dynamisms “subject-object in oneself,” dissatisfaction with oneself, perhaps even some light forms of the feeling of guilt, but above all certain ideal traits represented by persons whom the child desires to imitate. An authentic non-imitative personality ideal may develop later. (Dabrowski, 1972)

From The Dynamics of Concepts (1973)

This conception is especially important for those who can see the possibility of the formation of higher level compact forces in human life which would prevail over the power and compactness of primitive dynamisms. This conception is necessary, as we mentioned, for developmental psychologists, clergymen and people who practice authentic self-education and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Consequently, this concept may be usefully applied both theoretically and practically in education and self-education, in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy, in dealing with psychoneurotic processes, and in matters of inner transformations through positive disintegration and the so-called “inner life.” (Dabrowski, 1973)

An understanding of the problem and concept of positive alienation may be of fundamental importance in the approach to and realization of universal, multilevel and multidimensional education. It may help in a fundamental revision of the attitudes toward positive maladjustment, transgression of the psychological type and the biological life cycle; that is to say, it may have Applications in developmental psychology, psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. The concept of positive alienation, together with the concept of positive disintegration, may become significant in a new, positive interpretation of mental disturbances, particularly those of a psychoneurotic type. It may also contribute to the prevention of criminality, both in the usual social sense, as well as, political crimes and aggressive wars resulting from the occupation of positions of political power by psychopaths. (Dabrowski, 1973)

A disturbance of the primordial unity of one's own structure is, in our opinion, necessary for development. An expression of such a disturbance is, among others, astonishment with oneself. It does not seem to us that authentic development, self-education or autopsychotherapy could exist without the participation of this dynamism. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Dissatisfaction with oneself is of decisive significance in the process of overcoming low, primitive drives, in inner conflicts and in the growth of autonomous hierarchy of values and personality. Self-education and autopsychotherapy cannot operate without the dynamism of dissatisfaction with oneself. It is also indispensable for the growth of empathy and identification, because there cannot be proper, authentic interpersonal relations, an authentic “I and Thou” attitude without dissatisfaction with oneself. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The knowledge and experiencing of the feeling of shame and guilt, together with the realization of reparation are fundamental in the understanding of the theory of positive multilevel disintegration. They are indispensable in developmental and educational psychology, education, self-education and autopsychotherapy. The understanding of the positive meaning of this dynamism is one of the means of eliminating the one-sided negative interpretations of feelings of shame and guilt which are popular in psychopathology, especially with regard to psychoneuroses. It lets us evaluate positively “psychic crises of “the night of the soul,” the experiences of abandonment and spiritual emptiness, and the so-called active inner life with a realization of the ideal, through “separating” and “breaking up” in oneself. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Positive maladjustment is one of the clearest and indispensable concepts in the realm of theoretical and practical sciences concerned with mental development in particular, developmental and educational psychology, psychopathology, psychology of creativity, pedagogics, human relations, self- education and autopsychotherapy, and even ethics. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The dynamism of inner conflicts constitute very important forces in mental development through positive disintegration, and consequently, in a positive development of neuroses and psychoneuroses. This interpretation of the concept of inner conflicts has particular significance in developmental and educational psychology, in education, in psychoneuroses, and, first of all, in those parts of the above-mentioned disciplines which are related to self-education and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

We can find positive elements in various forms of regression or its related forms of psychic infantilism. Here can be included manifestations of accelerated development, psychoneuroses and creativity. A closer acquaintance and understanding of this problem allows a definitely positive interpretation of many symptoms of infantilism. The need for application of positive regression is particularly important in education and, very frequently, in dealing with children endowed with above average abilities. The usefulness of the concept of positive regression is manifest in developmental and educational psychology, in the theory of psychoneuroses, in self-education and autopsychotherapy; it is also striking in the study of outstanding and creative individuals. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The concept of the dynamism “subject-object” in oneself is indispensable in developmental and educational psychology, in education, self-education and autopsychotherapy. It is also indispensable in the theory and practice of interpersonal relations and in the philosophy of man.

Self-education and autopsychotherapy are impossible without the third factor. It is also of crucial significance in the philosophy of development. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The concept of inner psychic transformation is of great importance for developmental and educational psychology, for the practice of education and psychiatry, especially for self-education and autopsychotherapy. Its role is crucial at those stages of mental development at which we can observe distinct activity of autonomous, factors. The ability of inner psychic transformation enables the individual gradually to increase and deepen his knowledge of himself, and authentically to choose his aims and ideals. It also makes sure that the activity of the third factor is correct. Special attention to the problem of the ability of inner mental transformation should be given in cases of a psychological and psychotherapeutic diagnosis of so-called difficult individuals. Thorough knowledge of this dynamism should provide a basis for the organization of versatile methods of inhibition, of transfer of the disposing and directing center from lower toward higher levels, of control of the pressure of “common sense,” of intensification of conscious and authentic functions and simultaneous overcoming of primitive and automatic responses. (Dabrowski, 1973)

This educational and self-educational attitude is associated with global love, friendliness and assistance, as well as, with qualification of approval or disapproval with regard to various forms and levels of behavior. This attitude is the fundamental postulate in mental development and self-development, in education and self-education, in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The concepts of syntony and empathy are of special importance in developmental psychology, psychiatry and ethics, as well as, in all other sciences dealing with interpersonal relations. They are useful in self-education and autopsychotherapy and in every domain in which the emotional function is not sufficiently developed, e.g. in psychopathy, some forms of mental retardation, some paranoid disturbances, etc. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Autonomy is a concept of fundamental importance for a theory of development, for education, and especially for self-education and autopsychotherapy. Autonomy is also discussed in modern pedagogy when it deals with the Problem of forming so-called autonomous characters, both independent and creative. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The presence of at least some elements of autonomy in the psychic structure is important for all fields of the humanities. It is an essential quality of a true educator, judge, or authentic politician. Autonomy plays the fundamental role in the prognosis and treatment of psychoneuroses and functional mental illnesses. The possession of this capacity determines a good prognosis concerning the development of the individual and his, abilities for autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Every distinct result of the processes of self-education and autopsychotherapy which make us leave lower levels of development and achieve higher ones, is an expression of the fundamental process of aspiration to authentism (Dabrowski, 1973).

The concept of authentism has fundamental significance in the planning and realization of the program of self-development, self-education and autopsychotherapy, in shaping conditions for intuitive syntheses in the development of the self- perfection instinct and in the realization of personality and its ideal. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The processes of self-education, autopsychotherapy, and inner psychic transformation; the dynamisms of empathy, autonomy, and authenticity; and the disposing and directing center on a high level are structures and functions nearest to the ideal of personality (Dabrowski, 1973).

On the level of self-education and autopsychotherapy, activation becomes the “everyday” dynamism of development. This concept is fundamental and useful in developmental and educational psychology, in the theory of morals, in philosophy of the ideal, and everywhere where we speak, theoretically and practically, but in an authentic way, about autodeterministic development. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Such a conception of the disposing and directing center gives us insight, as it seems, into its position in and cooperation with the groups of different dynamisms on many levels. We can see its transformations, dependence on different inauthentic and authentic determinants and, on the highest level, we can observe its gradual identification with personality. Such a conception is not only of theoretical importance, but also can be the basis for an individual consciously to transform this dynamism towards its higher levels. That means, it would apply in self-education, autopsychotherapy, in the science of the “human will” in the sense of its determinants, indeterminants, and autodeterminants. (Dabrowski, 1973)

This reevaluated concept is applicable in developmental psychology, educational psychology, education, psychopathology, and especially in jurisdiction, psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy (Dabrowski, 1973).

Personality is, therefore, the final outcome of painstaking experiences of self-education and autopsychotherapy. It is, at the same time, the highest form of organization of mental functions that can be achieved by man. We could associate personality with the concept of a complete human individual who, in regard to the scope and level of his functions, represents a coherent and harmonious structure of a high degree of insight into himself, into his aims and aspirations (self-awareness). Personality may also be described as a self- chosen, unique organization of structures and dynamisms with a distinct identity and direction. The development of personality consists in the formation and growth of preeminently human qualities of a conscious and dramatic nature, in particular, autonomy and authenticity. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The above developed conception of personality as the outcome of the process of positive disintegration and as the aim in the development of mental functions and structures, seems to be of fundamental significance in developmental and educational psychology, in education, in accelerated mental development, psychology and psychopathology of psychoneuroses, and even in philosophy. Personality in the sense discussed here is an individual, empirical and normative structure. Hence, it becomes a powerful, dynamic force of a teleological nature which serves as a basis for the individual program of education, self-education and autopsychotherapy, founded on a correct diagnosis. (Dabrowski, 1973)

On a still higher level, at which the individual approaches personality and its ideal (i.e., on the borderline of organized multilevel disintegration and secondary integration) the following dynamisms emerge: autonomy and authenticity, education of oneself and autopsychotherapy, disposing and directing center on a high level and ideal of personality. These dynamisms show distinct integrative force and strong interconnections. All of them, including the disposing and directing center, are gradually identified with personality and approach its ideal, which is the supplier of mental energy on the highest accessible level. (Dabrowski, 1973)

In the author's opinion the concept of the inner psychic milieu is of important significance for developmental and educational psychology, psychopathology, ethics, and philosophy. It seems that it complements the concept of the external environment which, in its various dynamisms, will have “reference” to specific dynamisms and levels of the inner psychic milieu. In this way it will become possible to better understand the cases of harmony and disharmony between the two environments. It will be possible to examine, in a more incisive way, interenvironmental problems in education and self-education, in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy, as well as, in “inner life.” (Dabrowski, 1973)

The concept and the dynamism of positive mental tension should be applied to all areas in which the tendency prevails to evaluate tension pejoratively i.e., in education, psychopathology, psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. In this approach mental tension will play a corrective and compensating role with regard to the narrow and rigid interpretation of negative tension. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Therefore, this concept will be useful in the realm of self-education and autopsychotherapy, in the preparation and realization of programs of self- improvement, in the activity of the partial death instinct, and in every realm in which the dynamisms of inner psychic transformation, (i.e., autonomous dynamisms), are active. (Dabrowski, 1973)

In this manner the individual begins to dissociate, in his inner psychic milieu, what he feels to be “more himself” from what is “less himself.” He divides reality into this one which “is” and that one which “ought to be” he manifests growing empathy, autonomy, and authenticity. His aims and ideals undergo a change. His basic concern is no more his own preservation, but also his growth as a human being, as well as, the preservation and mental development of other people, as unique, irreplaceable individuals. This long-lasting and difficult process of self-education and autopsychotherapy operates tinder the strong impact of empathy and other dynamisms which lead to a sublimated type, and weakens all those qualities which are negative or irrelevant for the organization of a new mental structure on a higher level. As a result of this process, the introvertive type gains in sociability and displays increasingly higher forms of empathy. The extravertive type starts to experience the need for temporary isolation, meditation and contemplation. The transcendence of the psychological type is dependent on a more or less significant acquisition of some traits of the opposite type. It involves the processes of sublimation and complementation of typological traits. (Dabrowski, 1973)

A child that realizes the differences between various levels of behavior of his teachers and peers, as well as, the, different levels in his own behavior will experience those differences as being of different value some kinds of behavior belonging to lower, other kinds belonging to higher levels. a great number of individuals engaged in the processes of self-education and autopsychotherapy set up programs for their own development, control its realization, widen and deepen its scope, and more and more distinctly define their hierarchical systems of those values which are near realization and those whose realization demands more time; that is to say, they set up not only systems of values, but also systems of aims. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The concept of “empirico-evaluative” is useful in authentic mental development and in education of the human individual, particularly in the elaboration of programs of education and self-education, in autopsychotherapy, as well as, in conscious educational practices, in the theory of morals, and as a foundation of national and international policy founded on moral principles established through the process of authentic mental development. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The notion and the dynamism of control through instinctive and emotional dynamisms, should be introduced to developmental and educational psychology, education, self-education and autopsychotherapy, and also to the area of psychoneuroses and psychotherapy. Such a theory of controlling dynamisms should be regarded as a subject for detailed research; because, if this conception is confirmed, a new inter- and intrapsychic hierarchy will have to be applied and new methods introduced to the education of children, youth and adults. (Dabrowski, 1973)

The interpretation of nervousness as a substratum of creative processes and as a group of dynamisms which are instrumental in effecting autonomous mental development has application in developmental and educational psychology, in education and self-education, in psychopathology, psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. It is a basis for the understanding of the essence and the dynamics of creative processes. It is one of the main elements in the, interpretation of the development of personality. It plays a fundamental role in the understanding of the theory of positive disintegration and of the positive meaning of psychoneuroses. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Psychoneuroses start their “life” simultaneously with the beginning of positive disintegration and undergo collateral transformations. Their levels are in harmony with the levels of development of the individual in his difficult experiences of positive disintegration. On the highest level which can be reached (i.e., on the level of secondary integration) we cannot observe the existence of psychoneuroses. We find only the positive effects of psychoneurotic processes. However, the higher the level of positive disintegration, the higher is the level of functions in psychoneuroses the higher is mental tension, the higher are the components of self-education and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

With regard to medical care, and especially to psychotherapy, the main task should be a detailed diagnosis with a special evaluation of the patient's developmental potential and, subsequently, the persuasion of the patient, on the basis of thorough analysis of his concrete case, that psychoneuroses represent fundamental creative factors necessary for positive and accelerated development. Positive development of psychoneurotic dynamisms should be stressed, as well as, the transition from education and psychotherapy to self- education and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Knowledge of the relationship of creative abilities and the so-called positive immaturity is indispensable in self-education and autopsychotherapy. Ignorance in this respect frequently leads to failures and even catastrophes in family, marriage, and above all, in schools and in psychological and psychiatric practice. It results in psychopathological deviations, in suicides, and in fundamental errors and failures in psychotherapy. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Knowledge concerning interneurotic and intraneurotic levels of functions may have great importance in the theory of psychoneurosis, and especially in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. Both prognosis and methods of treatment should undergo a basic change. This means that the program and methods of psychotherapy in relation to psychoneurosis on a lower level should be different from the psychotherapy of psychoneurosis where the level of development of mental functions is higher. (Dabrowski, 1973)

This is the immunization through self-education and autopsychotherapy – a developmental, creative and prophylactic immunization. The defense forces in most of the psychoneurotic experiences, the immunological forces, do not defend the retreating dynamism, but defend the active new forces and new higher dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu. The internal conflicts, positive maladjustment, and dissatisfaction with oneself undergo specific, deep inner psychic transformation and are instrumental in the formation and growth of the dynamisms of authenticity, empathy, and personality and its ideal. Growing awareness of and insight into disintegrative dynamisms in their coexistence and co-operation with creative dynamisms, inner psychic transformation, and self-consciousness constitutes a prophylactic factor against involutional disintegration. (Dabrowski, 1973)

Consequently, we should separate them from the psychiatric classification of mental illness; they should not be treated by bringing them back to the norm, but they should be overcome through education, with special emphasis on self-education and autopsychotherapy (Dabrowski, 1973).

The ability to distinguish fully developed and nuclear psychopathic and psychoneurotic structures is of great importance in developmental and educational psychology, psychopathology, psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy, education and self-education. Understanding of the fundamental differences discussed here may prove of significant use in politics, in the selection of individuals for higher offices, in jurisdiction and especially in problems related to genocide. (Dabrowski, 1973)

On the other hand, having thought about himself, about the qualities of his character and personality, he came to this opinion: “I have too much madness not to be afraid of the thought that somebodyagainst my willwill try to treat me.” It was a symptom such as was exhibited by Kierkegaard, Unamuno, Kafkathey accustomed themselves to psychoneuroses and to torment. They felt that they (psychoneuroses) played a major role in authentic thinking and experiencing. Here was also the need for autopsychotherapy. Korczak was then a normal person, not in the statistical approach, but in the approach to health on the highest level; health which is approaching to the ideal. (Dabrowski, 1973)

From Multilevelness of Emotional and Instinctive Functions (1996)

The developmental factors (dynamisms) characteristic for organized multilevel disintegration are: subject-object in oneself, third factor (conscious discrimination and choice), inner psychic transformation, self-awareness, self-control, education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. Self-perfection plays a highly significant role. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

We see further a transition from an action of will combined with primitive drives, through a phase of many “wills” (i.e. multichangeable motivating tendencies) which operate simultaneously or in succession, to a unified “will” which characterizes the formation of personality at the level of secondary integration. The individual ceases to be an object of education but begins to educate himself within his personality structure, he ceases to feel inferior toward others but begins to feel inferior in regard to himself and his unrealized potential (not to be mistaken for external success); his psychotherapeutic needs are fulfilled by authentic autopsychotherapy or enlightened empathic guidance rather than therapy; his adjustment does not follow group norms but is an adjustment to the norm of personality (secondary integration). (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Autopsychotherapy. Psychotherapy, preventive measures, or changes in living conditions applied to oneself in order to control possible mental disequilibrium. Autopsychotherapy is the process of education-of-oneself under conditions of increased stress, as in developmental crises, in critical moments of life, in neuroses and psychoneuroses. It is an off-shoot of education-of-oneself operating at the borderline of levels III and IV. As development advances through spontaneous to organized multilevel disintegration, the conflicts, disturbances, depressions, and anxieties are handled consciously by the individual himself. Because of the great rise and differentiation of autonomous factors the individual has available to him the means not only to contain areas of conflict and tension but even more so to transform them into processes enriching and strengthening his development. Conscious self-healing is an example of this process at work; it is, however, more crucial in the mental and emotional than in the physical realm. Solitude and concentration play a very important role in this process. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. Autopsychotherapy operates on the borderline of levels III and IV. In relation of sexual life autopsychotherapy may come into action at a time of emotional and sexual conflict in a relationship, or with the lower instinctive levels in oneself. Previous experience, memory of errors, failures and previous psychoneurotic sexual conflicts (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 100) enrich the analysis of one’s sexual behavior and establish it at higher level. What remains from previous times are only traces of therapy, struggles and victories achieved in the development of the sexual instinct. In level IV, a program of systematic self-development, which results in lowering of inner tension but greater calmness and harmony, affects and smoothes out the unevennesses that may still be experienced in sexual life. This level of sexual life is clearly subordinated to the operation of empathy and ideal. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy supplement the transformative work carried out by all other dynamisms. The result is an intuitive readiness for action and giving of oneself to the needs of others who are burdened by fears which they cannot overcome. The problems of fear and the distress of anxiety are dealt with in the context of personal development as a whole. at this level of development only in exceptional cases there may be a need to develop a systematic program of dealing with one’s anxieties and fears, because rarely do they become debilitating. This would come more readily from excess of empathic sensitivity to the fears experienced by others and their existential despair than from any other source. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy maintain a constant attitude of continuing perfection and bringing greater subtlety of smile. They effect a direct or indirect inhibition of lower forms of laughter and also a tendency to choose always a smile in its sincere, direct, subtle, rich but also subdued form. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy express themselves in a readiness and an alertness to preserve, vitalize and move closer to the ideal of a reality of higher level. The action of these dynamisms results in a dynamic grasp of ever higher reality and a dynamic transition to a higher level. This may be observed as an optimistic approach and hope of reaching ever higher levels of reality, also in a certain feeling of power coming from the results of successfully self-developed programs of education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Joy flows from growing inner strength. This is directly related to the growth of personality and to an increasing awareness and control of oneself. Unique and exclusive relationships of friendship and love are a powerful source of joy, sometimes even ecstasy.  An important element contributing to joy are creative dynamisms of sadness. Very characteristic for this level is the joyous awareness of the impossibility to regress to earlier levels of development, because one has taken education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy into one’s own hands. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

The attenuation of selfishness continues as a result of development through level III. The hierarchy of values is already clearly structured, empathy is more developed, the control of oneself and insight with systematic labor of personal transformation are much stronger. These gains in inner growth are incompatible with selfishness. On the basis of active retrospection and prospection, and of affective memory of one’s own selfish experiences, arises an alertness against even the smallest manifestations of selfishness. With time this alertness grows in strength. This alertness is a function of education-of-oneself and of autopsychotherapy. In the process of systematic organization of one’s inner psychic milieu the elements of self-centeredness are transformed and sublimated to become components of a developing individual essence (dominant interests, vocation, exclusive emotional ties, and identification with oneself and one’s developmental history). (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Altruism is truly autonomous and authentic. It becomes an ideal standing against the actual selfishness of human nature. This ideal is developed through previous (level IV) education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. It is expressed in serene readiness for self- sacrifice for the sake of others. The relationship of “I” and “Thou” takes on transcendental character together with profound and intense multilevel empathy. States of meditation, contemplation, or ecstasy bring about the synthesis of an altruism encompassing all human values. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Here existential problems become more pronounced than in level III. Psychoneuroses are generated by a sense of failure in self-perfection and responsibility, by a sense of blocked progress in meditation and contemplation. Tendencies toward genuine ecstasy may be quite strong. Empathy may increase to the point of incapacitating the person in face of the extent of suffering and injustice in the world. Hence depression and anxiety over the fate and failure of other people. But all the psychoneurotic disturbances possible at this level are not severe because they are subject to autopsychotherapy, inner psychic transformation and education-of-oneself. Creative process may generate systematized obsessions of higher level as was the case of such writers as Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Miguel de Unamuno, William Faulkner, and so many others. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Increasingly more insightful and subtle treatment of patients as individuals who possess positive, even accelerated authentic developmental dynamisms. Continuous development and adjustment of these dynamisms in relation to patients. The basic approach is to uncover creative elements and psychic richness of clients as the most helpful and vital elements of their psychotherapy and development. Psychotherapy is based on stimulating and balancing the direction and the autonomous forces of individual development. Readiness to check the value of past and anticipated experiences as well as of goals. Being able to recognize and demonstrate that many of the mentally ill are extremely valuable members of society who, because of unfavorable social conditions, are barred from contributing to enrichment of society. These are the people who have the perception and the sensitivity to moral, esthetic and emotional values so sorely lacking in a mass society. Psychotherapy is based on the promotion of education-of-oneself, and of autopsychotherapy. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

The highest level of empathy. Mentally ill are treated as unique and unrepeatable individuals. Most mental and emotional disturbances are looked upon as a means of development. Negative components in order to be transformed and employed in development are linked with positive ones. For instance, sensual needs for attention and frequent contact with others can be reduced by practicing relaxation and calm induced through meditation. Psychotherapy with a client is carried out with the aim of his being able to develop autopsychotherapy, i.e. to activate consciously and systematically his developmental dynamisms in the process of inner psychic transformation. Instead of treatment there is education. The goal for the client is to become capable to education-of-himself. Various systems and disciplines of yoga and self-perfection based on moral and spiritual principles have this character. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Principles and methods of education are based on such dynamisms, defined in Chapter 5, as third factor, subject-object in oneself, inner psychic transformation, self-control, self-awareness, identification and empathy. Development of humanistic systems of education. These systems and methods are known in all schools of education based on a hierarchy of values and on developmental principles. The dynamisms mentioned above are perhaps only more precise conceptions of the most fundamental and the most advanced forces of development. Multilevelness of values and of emotional and instinctive functions is not only recognized but is applied consistently. Development of self-determination, autonomy and authenticity. Education takes into account the emotional and intellectual development of the relationship between “I-and-Thou.” Education based on programs involving education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

Continuing growth of self-determination, education-of-oneself and autopsychotherapy. Meditation, and empathy contribute to the development of educational methods. Comprehension of the value of intuitive and mystical cognition and of their influence in education in close cooperation with empathy. Education of personality and development of paths leading toward personality (cf. page 42) and its ideal. Education is founded on the recognition and experience of individual and common essence (cf. page 42, authentism). It recognizes the indispensability of contemplative methods and of testing them empirically. In consequence, these methods are part and parcel of the highest level of education. (Dąbrowski, 1996)

From Developmental Psychotherapy (not dated)

We know also that disharmony and unilevel, more primitive, increased sensitivity — in the presence of developmental potential — express a search for new tensions, on the way to the “multilevel break-up” into “higher” and “lower” a search for the solution in the hierarchization of functions, a search for that which “ought to be”, contrary to that which “is”. They search for a higher hierarchy of values and aims. Developmental potential simply cannot be stopped. They always search for positive methods, and sometimes (when the influence of the environment is strong) for negative ones. This phenomenon is fundamental in development, education and education of oneself, in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 7)

Positive disintegration comprises a complex of fundamental dynamisms in education, education of oneself, psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. However, the utilization of the dynamisms of positive disintegration in these fields requires certain changes in present educational concepts and practices. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 9)

All development, all authentic education and education of oneself is based on inner conflict. Authentic inner conflicts, those that an individual is aware of, are the fundamental elements in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy. They are not treated as an enemy but as a friend; they are not destroyed or pushed aside but are incorporated into and used for development. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 24)

The most important dynamisms of this level are: self-awareness and self-control, identification and empathy, “subject-object” in oneself, third factor, inner psychic transformation, education of oneself, autopsychotherapy, and the disposing and directing center on a high level. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 24)

The compound emotional-cognitive control has deeper and more transformative effects on the individual than has intellectual control alone. The introduction and development of such as emotional control is very important in therapy and autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 26)

The individual in whom the third factor and the factor of inner psychic transformation is functioning is capable of education of oneself and autopsychotherapy. The first dynamism plans education of oneself prepares its methods, works out their implementation, and determines their frequency of use and realization. The second dynamism, autopsychotherapy operates with the developmental and educational elements and their application in periods of crisis, special tensions and difficulties. It is also the dynamism of psychotherapeutic education of oneself. This dynamism transforms the psychopathological stimuli and dynamisms into positive and developmental ones. It cooperates here with the dynamism of inner psychic transformation. (Dabrowski, n.d., pp. 31-32)

On the fourth level, that is to say, multilevel organized disintegration, this attitude deepens, is more elaborated and calm. The experiential side is strong, but the planned elaborated activity is stronger. The activities of the dynamisms “subject-object” in oneself, self-awareness, third factor, and inner psychic transformation become more elaborated and calm, without a decrease in their strength. There begins a planned development of education of oneself and autopsychotherapy. Identification and empathy widen in adjustment to the type and level of individuals or groups, without affectation, but with a great concern and a constant readiness to help. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 43)

At the stage of multilevel organized disintegration, the following types of psychoneurosis can be observed: depression psychoneurosis, anxiety psychoneurosis, psychasthenia and infantile neurosis. One has to stress the point that those psychoneurosis can appear in milder or more severe forms, and that they influence the positive development of an individual; in this way they constitute the domain of autopsychotherapy, which controls and transforms the psychic disorders. The disorders at this level do not in any way impair the individual structure of a person, which is the case at lower levels. On the contrary, oaring to their inherent prophylactic, defensive and developmental factors, they play an important part in the general development of the individual. (Dabrowski, n.d., pp. 62-63)

An individual who develops himself and his surroundings can see the hierarchy of aims in development as he himself creates and controls this hierarchy. In an individual who is interested in his development and who experiences values on a given level, we are always dealing with the creation of the hierarchy of aims which correspond to the levels and values mentioned above. Those aims became modified through the analysis of their true, dynamic value, their value, which can be examined in relation to the objectively stated, and progressing developmental level. The hierarchy of aims becomes modified, transformed and verified in the effort of education of oneself and in autopsychotherapy. It becomes corrected in its specific aspects. It represents a totality of dynamisms linked with a given developmental level, and with a given level of the experiencing of values. These three phenomena are empirical, cohesive and objectively evaluated. They form a tri-member that is empirical, dynamic, inter-dependent, and verifiable by empirical methods. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 73)

Where a positive or highly positive developmental potential exists, the growth of autonomic functions comes quickly into play, and autopsychotherapy begins to take place. This process is linked with the hierarchy of values, with the formulation of a plan for development, and with the gradual organization of the system of a hierarchy of aims. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 107)

Proper psychotherapy should be based on the development of the given individual's own powers, and not on symptomatology. The crucial problem in proper psychotherapy is to differentiate between and determine which are the truly pathological dynamisms and which are the seemingly pathological and basically developmental positive dynamisms (dynamisms of psychoneurosis). We have to try to differentiate clearly between the factors that degenerate psychic functions and the apparently pathological factors that represent certain difficulties and conflicts that must be overcome on the way to a higher level of mental health. Factors which belong to the second group can, through suitable psychotherapy, but mainly through autopsychotherapy, be transformed into the most positive of forces, not only in development, but also in protecting and immunizing the individual against clearly pathological influences. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 108)

An attitude would be adopted to endeavor to transform, in a profound way, the process of psychotherapy into autopsychotherapy and education of oneself, always keeping in mind the psychic readiness (kind and level) of the patient. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 120)

Psychotherapy is a totality of the elaborately thought out actions of the therapist in relation to his patient, or of the patient himself (autopsychotherapy) which do not aim at the elimination of symptoms but which, above all, aim at helping and guiding the development of total personality, giving due consideration to the positive or even creative transformation of the so-called pathological symptoms through this development and through incorporating them as developmental educational and self-educational processes. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 121)

It appears that a strict distinction between neurasthenia and psychasthenia may not be necessary. We are inclined to regard neurasthenia as a lower level of psychasthenia. One can say that, in neurasthenia, neuropsychic processes are more active (autonomic dystonia, disintegration of urge activity); in psychasthenia, on the other hand, mental processes are predominant. The difference between neurasthenia and psychasthenia, or as we would rather say, between the lower and higher levels of psychasthenia, is also evident in the need for different therapeutic methods. Since, in psychasthenia, the psychic processes are dominant, the most effective methods are autopsychotherapy and therapy promoting individual growth. In neurasthenia fair results may often be obtained by the application of neurotonics, which increase nervous tension and tonicity. However, it is advisable, as a general rule to apply neurotonics as well as psychotherapy; the good results testify to the coexistence of neurasthenic and psychasthenic conditions. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 133)

At higher levels of psychic development, that is, in higher forms of psychoneuroses, it would be advisable to transfer from methods of hetero-psychotherapy to those of autopsychotherapy in dealing with such patients. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 152)

The psychotherapeutic work is quite difficult in cases of unilevel disintegration, because we cannot count too much on the patient's help and cooperation. He is usually lacking in potential for autopsychotherapy and for education of oneself, and only heteropsychotherapy is possible. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 160)

The method of weakening excessive, but superficial psychic sensitivity and tension, introducing channeling through the most natural methods, and even encouraging regressions which are harmless to the development of the individual, offers to the patient some possibilities of psychic rest, and at times “cleans the field” and prepares for a slow transition to multilevel disintegration, prepares for the mobilization and development of the germs of autopsychotherapy and education of self. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 162)

A further question arises as to whether the feelings of disquietude towards oneself and dissatisfaction about oneself play an actual role in the real positive transformation of the patient's personality, whether they really serve the development of this personality. It is very important, with respect to this problem and many others, to know whether there is an actual formation of a dominant interest, in the patient, about his inner psychic milieu and its system of transformation. Does this exist in the sense of a rather passive attitude of curiosity, as opposed to the participation in the real transformation of this milieu? We must determine, in other words, whether this is the formation of an overly strong component of a narcissistic attitude, rather than aspirations to find the best methods of autopsychotherapy and education for oneself. (Dabrowski, n.d., pp. 186-187)

We have a number of examples in patients who exhibit great richness of sensitivity, talent and interests. These developmental capabilities, however, are loosely connected, unilevel, and are not directed by any strong and unifying factor. If such individuals display a high sensual and emotional excitability they will tend to constantly experience rather than try to evolve a system of education of oneself. They will be more interested in their experiences than in the program for inner transformation. They may “get lost” in their anxieties, disquietudes and depressions. They search for a “way out,” but are not able to find the path that leads upwards, to the higher levels of reality. This path is to be found in meditation, in periodic isolation from the most frequently occurring experiences, and in psychotherapeutic methods of “psychic mirroring,” and elaborating a system of self-imposed decisions and responsibilities that are fulfilled with great perseverance.

A psychotherapist can be of great help here mainly by inducing an attitude of “taking stock of oneself” and by suggesting and controlling suitable methods of autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 197)

The slow transition from chaotic forms of disintegration (main unilevel) to the forms characterized by the presence of multilevel dynamisms distinguishes itself by the gradual increase in the patient's awareness of the disintegrative processes. He attempts to become conscious of the main dynamisms of disintegration and to direct them. Thus begins the period of organization of the forces of multilevel disintegration and initial secondary integration with an accompanying subordination to them of the majority of unilevel dynamisms. The lack of any tendency on the part of the therapist to transform therapy to autopsychotherapy does not speak well for the therapist. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 203)

The psychotherapist, proportionate to his success in the application of therapy, should slowly transfer the emphasis from psychotherapy and education to the action of the patient himself, i.e., to autopsychotherapy and education of oneself. Then a gradual change in the relationship between the psychotherapist and the patient takes place. Their bonds of friendship are deepened and elevated to a higher plane although their feelings for each other remain basically the same. What does change, however, is the growing independence of the patient, accompanied by an attitude of mutual understanding, psychic calming down and a deeply positive relationship. (Dabrowski, n.d., pp. 203-204)

The progressively more complete transition to education of oneself and autopsychotherapy represents one of the most important periods in the patient's development. This period is filled with tensions and even occasional breakdowns, but these tensions and breakdowns contain a marked degree of “prophylactic first aid” in the form of the patient's own conscious forces and clear direction. The assistance provided by the psychotherapist in the patient's development and therapy does not necessarily to help, especially in relatively difficult periods. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 204)

We must now try to answer the following-question: what forces must a patient possess, and at what developmental level must he be to be considered ready for the transition period from psychotherapy to autopsychotherapy?

Above all, as we have already stated, he must be aware of the fact that it is he himself who is principally responsible for organizing the process of disintegration. He must understand and experience the presence of the dynamisms of disintegration and secondary integration and endeavor to utilize them, whatever the difficulties, to his advantage. (Dabrowski, n.d., p 205)

We see in this example forms of transformation of the dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu and their relations with the environment, indications that present a basis for diminishing the need for psychotherapy and relying more strongly on autopsychotherapy. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 210)

As the processes of multilevel disintegration become progressively better organized, hence as the exercise of autopsychotherapy by the patient increases, the intensity of the difficulties usually decreases. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 220)

There are fairly frequent case when a patient's conviction about his values connected with his positive dynamisms, if it took place at a suitably high developmental level and in a friendly atmosphere, leads to a “developmental jump” to a basic transformation of values, a quick transition to autopsychotherapy and “the taking one's fate into one's hands”. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 224)

After two years of psychotherapy the patient accepted the principle of the dynamic attitude to his illness, of elaborating this attitude and organizing it. He began, in other words, to practice autopsychotherapy, but he continued to feel the need to have some of his disturbances treated by pharmacological means. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 227)

The therapist-patient relationship and its role in psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy have been already discussed in various sections of this book. We bring it up again in order to emphasize its importance.

The psychotherapist must see himself, even in the phase of heteropsychotherapy, as a participant in the patient's developmental drama and must consider the patient's problems as very serious and vital matters. This attitude is even more important during the patient's transition period into the phase of autopsychotherapy. The patient must feel at all tines that he is treated with cognitive and emotional respect. He must not feel that he is treated superficially and that he is regarded as an experimental object. There should be present in him a conviction that the therapist is genuinely and individually interested in him as a human being and personality rather than in his illness. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 227)

As was already stated, various types and forms of overexcitability do not usually appear in a pure form, but, as a rule, coexist with other components and display various degrees of amplitude and different degrees of cooperation. This presents a source of possibilities for psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy, since a purposeful development of one or the other selected components protects an individual from developing unilaterally, from being too rigid, and from possible pathological disintegration. Trying to increase the sphere and amplitude of sensitivity, both in the inner psychic milieu as well as towards the environment, which, as we [snow, constitutes the basis for positive disintegration, should be conducted with great caution and vigilance, and in such a way that the individual is made to utilize his own compensatory and subliminal forces during the frequent moments of internal and external conflicts. The development of one or another component should be based on a detailed descriptive diagnosis which is repeated and supervised from time to time, according to the given conditions of inner transformation. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 288)

In relation to the complex of sexual disturbances in children and adolescents, it is important to determine if the dynamisms of positive disintegration are also present, and, if so, what is their level and amplitude. If the ability for self-observation, self-control, sensitivity towards oneself and the environment, inner psychic transformation and hence the ability for the formation of an inner psychic milieu are present, the prognosis is good and there is scope for psychotherapy and autopsychotherapy as outlined in the previous chapters of this book. (Dabrowski, n.d., p 302)

The exercises of relaxation, as well as their direct psychotherapeutic influence on the patient, make it possible to apply other methods — i.e. autopsychotherapy and education of oneself — since they weaken nervous tension and induce psychic calm. (Dabrowski, n.d., p. 312)


Dabrowski, K. (1964). Positive disintegration. Little, Brown. 

Dabrowski, K. (1967). Personality-shaping through positive disintegration. Little, Brown.

Dabrowski, K. (with Kawczak, A., & Piechowski, M. M.). (1970). Mental growth through positive disintegration. Gryf.

Dabrowski, K. (1972). Psychoneurosis is not an illness. Gryf.

Dabrowski, K. (1973). The dynamics of concepts. Gryf.

Dabrowski, K. (1996). Multilevelness of emotional and instinctive functions. Part I: Theory and description of levels of behavior. Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego.

Dabrowski, K. (n.d.). Developmental psychotherapy: Psychotherapy based on the theory of positive disintegration. Unpublished manuscript. Department of Psychology, University of Alberta.